CUSD student challenges district’s ‘sexist’ dress code - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

CUSD student challenges district’s ‘sexist’ dress code

September 11th, 2022 SanTan Sun News
CUSD student challenges district’s ‘sexist’ dress code

By Ken Sain
Managing Editor

Santan Junior High student Hannah deGraft-Johnson says the school’s dress code is sexist.

“I believe that the dress code includes exclusion and enforces unjust standards and emphasis on a specific gender,” said Hannah, a student in the gifted program. “Statistics from many reliable sources show the same average, 83%, of dress code violations are [given to] girls.”

Hannah brought the issue to the Chandler Unified School District Governing Board Aug. 24 and said she has been happy with how officials have responded.

She met with Ken James, executive director for junior high schools, and said he told her he would meet with all the junior high principals to discuss the issue.

Hannah said her main problem with the dress code, which prohibits tank tops or half shirts that show too much of the mid-section, is the way it is presented. She said they were told that dressing in such a way could provoke sexual harassment.

“We had a discipline presentation at my school, where … a question was asked about the dress code by students,” Hannah said. “The response did not sit right with me. We were told that as middle schoolers, we had uncontrollable hormones. So, the dress code was made to prevent things from happening.”

She said the district should instead provide awareness training on sexual harassment instead of blaming girls for how they dress.

Stephanie Ingersoll, district executive director for marketing and communications, said Santan is following policy.

“All CUSD schools follow a governing board-approved dress code policy, which applies to all students,” she said.

Hannah, 13, said the big issue for her is not necessarily the dress code, but a culture that blames girls for sexual harassment.

“Now I feel like I want more awareness about sexual assault, and rape, because I think that is not talked about enough and that people go through stuff, but they’re either too scared to speak out, or they don’t really know what’s going on,” Hannah said.

This activism is not a surprise to Hannah’s father.

“She’s a little bit of a different kid,” Joseph deGraft-Johnson said. “She’s very strong willed. And so when she has her mind made up, she goes for it.”

Hannah said she decided to bring this issue up when talking to some friends who planned to speak about mental health.

“The whole tank tops thing, because it’s Arizona, and it’s hot,” Hannah said. “So I always thought that was not a good thing to put on the dress code. But then when … my vice principal said during the meeting that the dress code is because we’re teenagers, and we have increased hormones… So he said that it is just to protect us. And I was like, that’s really the wrong and like, weird thing to say.”

She’s not confident her speaking up will change anything, even after a positive meeting with Ken James.

“I heard a lot of times that they don’t like talking about it,” Hannah said. “So, I think that because they don’t like talking about it and they’re uncomfortable about it, they don’t want to change it. Because that creates talk.”